Today, Jamestown Island is a captivating museum that offers visitors an unforgettable encounter with our nation’s fragile beginnings.
Walk in the footsteps of Captain John Smith and Pocahontas and the hundreds of lesser known heroes and villains who lived and died here and played each a part in laying the foundations of America. The story of Jamestown is one of both success and tragedy, retold in the ruins of the original fort and the artifacts that have been recovered there. The Archaerium exhibit features a wonderful collection of everyday items recovered from the fort and its surroundings. More than 1.4 million artifacts have been recovered across the site and in coming years will be displayed in new facilities.
Archaeologists are working at locations around the site year round, weather permitting. Visitors are allowed close access to the digs where they can often join in the moment of discovery.
The original 17th century church tower is the only above ground structure that has survived over the years. It offers unique insights into the social, religious and architectural customs of the day.
Glassmaking was one of the original industries at Jamestown and the tradition continues today in the Glasshouse where craftsmen blow glasses, bowls and bottles alongside the remains of the original glassmakers’ furnaces.
Bald eagles, blue herons, ospreys and white tailed deer are just part of the indigenous wildlife that thrive in the area. Driving, biking and hiking along the Island Drive affords visitors an unspoiled view of nature. Interpretive exhibits along the drive explore the island’s natural setting and habitat and examine how the Jamestown settlers harnessed the wilderness for their own uses.
JAMESTOWN CHURCH – The stately Church stands behind a brick tower, erected c. 1690, which is the only surviving seventeenth-century structure at Jamestown. It is also one of the oldest English-built edifices standing in the United States. The interior of the Church contains the brick and cobblestone foundations of the 1639 church.
HISTORIC JAMESTOWNE – ADDITIONAL TOUR OPTION
TOUR JAMESTOWN ISLAND WITH AN ARCHAEOLOGIST
The Jamestown Rediscovery archaeological team continues to make exciting discoveries as they peel away the layers of an early 17th-century cellar inside James Fort. Little by little archaeologists have scraped away the earth above the cellar floor and have finally arrived at the occupation layers – the layers of soil on which the colonists actually stood and worked. The process was one that was full of clues into the changes and functions of the cellar during its existence.
It is now understood that the cellar underwent several major changes in form and function over time. The evidence supports that this underground space first served as a workshop/laboratory and ultimately evolved into a kitchen, possibly for the first resident Governor in 1611.
The program uses the research database of the Jamestown Rediscovery archaeology project as the basis for the information presented. You’ll enjoy learning about the history of Jamestown as revealed through archaeology. Seasonally and weather permitting, you will share the moment of discovery with archaeologists at work.
An archaeologist inspects the hearth of a fireplace that appears to have fallen into a well. The fireplace is inside the remains of the first Virginia Governor’s house which dates to 1611, and was apparently built over a well that could be the one built by John Smith in 1609.
A TOUR OF JAMESTOWN SETTLEMENT
After touring Jamestown Island, guests will make a short trip to Jamestown Settlement which is located adjacent to the Island.
Jamestown Settlement is the first permanent English Settlement. Thirteen years before the Pilgrims landed in Massachusetts, a group of 104 English men and boys made the four-and-a-half-month voyage to the banks of the James River to form a settlement in Virginia. Their goal of making a profit from the resources of the New World for the Virginia Company’s shareholders in London quickly took a back seat to pure survival as they confronted the harsh realities of life in their new home.
At Jamestown Settlement, you’ll learn about the settlers’ many trials and adventures. Located adjacent to the original site, this expansive living-history museum offers full-scale recreations of the colonists’ fort and Powhatan Indian village, a riverfront discovery area, and replicas of three English ships that brought the settlers to the New World.
A 30,000-square-foot exhibit space explores Jamestown’s beginnings as a business venture, the impact of European colonization on the Powhatan Indian culture, and the origins of the first known Africans in Virginia. You’ll see hundreds of artifacts from the period, among them portraits, documents, furnishings, ceremonial and decorative objects, tools, and weapons. Three-dimensional life-size structures and small theaters help bring the story to life.
Jamestown Settlement’s unique combination of exhibits and hands-on activities make it the perfect destination for families. Try your hand at grinding corn. Scrape an animal hide and weave natural fibers onto cordage. Squeeze into a sailor’s bunk or steer a ship with a whipstaff or tiller. Learn how to navigate the seas. Watch a blacksmith work in his shop. And cover your ears as matchlock muskets fire inside the fort. History doesn’t get more active than this!
Historical interpreters forge and repair metal objects in a blacksmith shop, and near one of the fort’s three bulwarks, demonstrate how a matchlock musket is fired. Interpreters also cultivate food and tobacco crops, undertake carpentry projects using 17th-century-style tools, and periodically engage visitors in domestic activities such as sewing and meal preparation.
Try on armor and play games of quoits (ringtoss) and ninepins (bowling).